The Bank of England has been issuing banknotes for over 300 years.

Banknotes were originally IOUs for gold deposits held at the Bank of England. People used them to pay for things safe in the knowledge that they were backed by the promise to pay the equivalent value in gold.

This confidence in banknotes is important for keeping the whole economy functioning. It is for this reason that we work hard to ensure that banknotes are high quality, durable and difficult to counterfeit.

Coins are manufactured and issued by the Royal Mint. See their website for information on all coins issued in the UK.

The Royal Mint

Current banknotes

Our banknotes are designed to be difficult and time consuming to copy. We work closely with De La Rue, the company that currently prints our banknotes, to ensure that new banknotes are of a uniformly high quality.

There are currently four denominations (values) of circulating Bank of England note: £5, £10, £20 and £50. Every note has a unique serial number.

Our current £5 and £10 notes are printed on polymer. We also have a paper £10 in circulation, which will be withdrawn on 1 March 2018.

Our current £20 and £50 are printed on paper. Our next £20 note, to be issued in 2020, will be made from polymer. We have not yet made a decision on the material for the next £50 note.


£5 note

The polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill entered circulation on 13 September 2016.

Image showing paper ten pound notes

Paper £10 note

The paper £10 note featuring Charles Darwin was issued on 7 November 2000.

Image showing front of ten pound notes

Polymer £10 note 

The new polymer £10 note, featuring Jane Austen entered circulation on 14 September 2017.


Paper £20 note

The current £20 note, featuring the economist Adam Smith, was issued on 13 March 2007. 


£50 note

The current £50 note, featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt, was issued on 2 November 2011.

What is legal tender?

'Legal tender’ is a term that people often use, but when it comes to what can or can’t be used to pay for things, it has little practical use.
Legal tender has a very narrow and technical meaning, which relates to settling debts. It means that if you are in debt to someone then you can’t be sued for non-payment if you offer full payment of your debts in legal tender.

What is classed as legal tender varies throughout the UK. In England and Wales, legal tender is Royal Mint coins and Bank of England notes. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, only Royal Mint coins are legal tender. Throughout the UK, there are some restrictions when using the lower value coins as legal tender. For example, 1p and 2p coins only count as legal tender for any amount up to 20p.

Upcoming banknotes

We have not yet made a decision on the £50 note.

JMW Turner concept image

Polymer £20 note

We will be issuing a new £20 note in 2020.

This page was last updated 15 February 2018
Was this page useful?
Add your details...